LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers made their first round of Spring Training roster cuts Wednesday morning, sending out eight players and unconditionally releasing right-hander Luis Marte.
Marte hasn't pitched for the Tigers since 2012, when he posted a 2.82 ERA in 22 1/3 innings over 13 appearances. The 27-year-old righty pitched in three games for Triple-A Toledo last year before undergoing season-ending surgery on his right shoulder. Marte was designated for assignment when the Tigers signed outfielder Rajai Davis this offseason.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said the decision to release Marte, rather than reassign him, was simply a product of the numbers game.
"He wasn't going to make the big league club, and it was a situation where there really wasn't a spot in Triple-A for him," Ausmus said. "You never want to tell someone that you're releasing them, but the truth is it's better now than later, [because] you have an opportunity to catch on with somebody else.
"He's a great kid, a classy kid. Worked hard. It just wasn't going to work here. Hopefully he can catch on in another organization."
Left-hander Casey Crosby and right-hander Melvin Mercedes were optioned to Triple-A Toledo, while right-hander Jose Valdez and catcher Ramon Cabrera were optioned to Double-A Erie. Right-hander Drew VerHagen, lefties Duane Below and Robbie Ray and catcher James McCann were reassigned to Detroit's Minor League camp.
Ausmus said he and pitching coach Jeff Jones were impressed by VerHagen's mound presence and ability, but the 23-year-old could use more experience. The same could be said for Ray, acquired in the deal that sent Doug Fister to Washington, but Ausmus added that the 22-year-old lefty also needs to refine his secondary offerings before he's Major League-ready.
"I was actually impressed with Robbie," Ausmus said. "He's one of the few guys who has -- we've talked about kind of a swing-and-miss fastball. It plays up a couple miles per hour on the radar gun. But I think it's important for him to not only go down and gain experience, but work on his secondary pitches -- specifically the breaking ball, and see if we can tighten that up. But I certainly liked how he pitched.
"He's definitely close. A lot of it's going to depend on the secondary pitches. If he commands his secondary pitches, he's going to be a Major League pitcher, because his fastball plays in the Major Leagues right now."
After their first wave of spring roster moves, the Tigers have 46 players remaining in Major League camp.